I travel for work twice a year at least, long-haul to the USA. (Don't worry, I won't revolt you by blogging about airline food.) Once you're out of your geographical culinary comfort zone, you have to work a bit harder to get the good stuff. You have to find food to fit your taste, your budget, your timeframe, your immediate needs, and your social boundaries.
In Vegas, home of the largest fashion trade shows in the world and therefore a regular destination of mine, it's easy to find decadent buffets and stunning contemporary cuisine at renowned restaurants. But I'm there for work, and on my own, so the last thing I want to do after a ten-hour day at the shows is get fancied-up and go for a 5* dinner alone. On the other hand there's no question of me grabbing a pre-packed, processed glob of some plastic-wrapped additive-fest off the shelves of the convenience store. I'm not a junk food person. I hate eating poor-quality food, even resent it. And it's not good for business; I get cranky if I don't have good food.
Which is why I love Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock Hotel. If you had to fit it into a category it would be gastro-pub, but they've tweaked the concept enough to make it a stand-out in its own right. The decor, staff and music create a cool but laid-back vibe that manages to be hipper than the average hotel bar by far, yet still welcoming. The food is fantastic and unpretentious, with the emphasis on seasonality and flavour - I liked seeing "yesterday's soup" on the menu instead of soup of the day (they're right, it always is better the next day). Talking on here last week about salads with a bit of oomph, Culinary Dropout has a great example - kale and sweet potato salad, with roasted cauliflower, goat's cheese, pecans and pear shavings. Toothsome.
My favourite option though is the antipasti - you tick off what you want and it comes on a platter with fresh crusty bread drizzled with really good olive oil and a bit of sea salt.